While many California residents remain hunkered in their residences waiting for the Coronavirus outbreak to slow, another natural danger is lurking in the mountains. Following the fourth snow survey of 2020 from the California Department of Water Resources, officials revealed that California snowpack currently sits at a paltry 53 percent, raising drought fears across the state.
The April 1st snow survey conducted at Phillips Station just south of Tahoe showed a meager rebound of snowpack following the storms of March, not enough to fully rebound from the driest February on record. While the Sierra survey showed the snowpack at 66 percent of average in Northern California, the statewide snowpack sits at 53 percent.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, officials recorded a separate video statement of the survey results, compared to their usual media show at Philips Station.
#ICYMI DWR conducted the 4th Phillips Station snow survey of 2020. The manual survey recorded 43.5" of snow depth & a snow water equivalent of 16.5", which is 66% of avg. for this location.— CA – DWR (@CA_DWR) April 1, 2020
Statewide, the Sierra snowpack is 53% of avg.
More here: https://t.co/LYJxIHicfC pic.twitter.com/8tRS9RrMFU
While these numbers might not mean much to the average person, they are a potential signal of upcoming drought.
“This year we’re probably going to have one of the 10 worst snowpacks in California history,” said DWR spokesman Chris Orrock to KQED.
As with the three prior snow surveys in 2020, the DWR emphasized the impact that climate change has had on the region over the past 10 years.
“Over the last decade, California’s snowpack has been alternating between extremely wet and extremely dry,” stated Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecast Section. “In the past 10 years, we’ve seen three of our smallest snowpacks on record, but we’ve also seen three of our largest snowpacks on record.”
While the prior snow surveys had California water officials worried of an impending drought, the April survey is the most alarming, since that’s when the highest percent of snowpack is typically seen.
Reservoir levels are currently sitting stagnant, with just little reductions in water levels seen throughout the state. Shasta Lake sits at 98 percent of average, Trinity Lake is at 102 percent, Lake Oroville sits at 85 percent and Folsom Lake sits the lowest at 76 percent. Those numbers can be expected to drop throughout the spring season, barring some significant weather event.
DWR officials credited 2019’s robust snowpack for the current water levels, but fear that another poor water year could bring them down to the numbers seen in droughts past.